Journal of Literary Semantics 47 (2):147-152 (2018)

Michael Y. Bennett
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
Using William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and the play-within-the play, The Murder of Gonzago, as a case study, this essay argues that theatrical utterances constitute a special case of language usage not previously elucidated: the utterance of a statement with propositional content in theatre functions as an event. In short, the propositional content of a particular p (e.g. p1, p2, p3 …), whether or not it is true, is only understood—and understood to be true—if p1 is uttered in a particular time, place, and situation (i.e. during a theatrical event); otherwise, the propositional content in those theatrical utterances can either be false or contingently true.
Keywords philosophy of language  philosophy of theater  aesthetics
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